I wish to welcome all of you journalists and all the correspondents and representatives of the media who have taken the time to come and meet with us this afternoon.
We are in this country upon the kind invitation of His Beatitude Major Archbishop- Catholicos Mar Baselios Cleemis. I wish to greet him and thank him for his kind invitation. We are very happy to come and visit a Sister Church and get to know her better, become more aware of her role, her identity and her mission. In fact both our Churches belong to the Syriac Tradition; the Maronite Church having originated in the first Christian Community founded by Saint Peter in Antioch, and the Saint Thomas Church founded in this great and culturally rich country of yours, founded by Saint Thomas the Apostle. Getting to know each other better we hope to enrich each other with our spiritual, cultural and liturgical traditions. We want to endeavor also to cultivate a greater cooperation between our two Churches in their respective cultures and missions, in Asia and the Middle East, always in view of deeper cooperation in the spirit of communion and witness, as the Holy Father has instructed us in the post-synodal Apostolic exhortation for the Middle East.
I like to take this opportunity to thank the civil authorities for their courteous hospitality and the care they are taking to make our visit both comfortable and safe.
We have come from Lebanon where we received His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for three days, as you know, from L4 to L6 of this month. He came as a pilgrim of peace to deliver to us, and through us to all the Churches in the Middle Eastern region, the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "The Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness", as a fallow up to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East held in Rome, October 2010.
Lebanon, as you know, is the only country in the Middle East in which Christians and Muslims decided together to live in harmony in a secular state, practically the only country in the region in which lslam is not the religion of the State. Christians and Muslims are equally represented in the parliament as well as in the government. This formula is unique worldwide and it guarantees, under the constitution, total freedom of speech, freedom of religion and, above all freedom of conscience. lt guarantees also the acceptance of diversity within unity, the openness to modernity and to the world at large. Due to all the features of Lebanon mentioned above, that political formula can be proposed as the way forward to a democratic government for the countries struggling to find a replacement for their old regimes. The dictatorial regimes that were swept away as a result of the Arab awakening, left a dangerous vacuum liable to be filled up, if one is not careful, by new regimes not less authoritarian than the previous ones.
We came from a region which has been going through a very deep change where the people have defied dictators and demanded freedom, democracy and human rights. Unfortunately we have witnessed much violence and bloodshed. ln Syria the conflict has, in the opinion of UN officials, degenerated into a civil war. Many countries are sending in arms and supporting the uprising. This way of behaving is making life very difficult and very dangerous for all and more particularly for citizens' it is pouring oil on the fire.
No one doubts the legitimacy of the demands put forward by the people' but violence is not' in our opinion, the way to reach those goals. This is why we call upon the various parties concerned to come to the table and try to find a political solution through dialogue.